LESSONS IN CUSTOMER CARE
by Gitanjali Maria
(Kochi, Kerala, India)
Nina clutched the receiver tightly, the fear in her mind and the rising palpitation of her heart transforming into the force of a tight grip around the plastic receiver piece of her office telephone. The person on the other side was shouting, yelling at her, “How can you make such a simple mistake. Do you think you are even qualified to take the job of a peon in this company? I don’t think you’ll ever be assigned a new project….” Her repeated attempts at apologizing and explaining things were bellowed down by the thundering voice from the other side.
And finally as the thunderstorm from the other side ended and she placed the receiver back into its rightful place, she looked around hoping that none of her colleagues around her would have heard her getting bashed up by the client or even noticed her embarrassed face. None of them even looked up from the laptop monitors they were keenly staring into. She sighed a sigh of relief and desperation. The first assignment at her first job had gone awry.
Her mind raced back as flashes of different memories sped past its screen. She remembered an incident from the previous night. She had ordered pizzas from the nearest pizza outlet for dinner. She had been feeling famished then and had had a craving to eat something nice with lots of cheese, chilly and chicken pieces. She had gone for a cheese stuffed non-veg pizza. While the order had been delivered within the stimulated 30 minutes, she realized that the delivery boy had brought her a normal pizza and not a cheese stuffed one. She had got annoyed and had yelled at the frightened boy, who must have just turned eighteen, “What is that you have brought? I ordered a cheese burst pizza and why should I eat a normal one? What do you think you are doing? I’m going to call your manager.” The pleas of the boy apologizing and saying that he didn't pack the order and the he could change the pizza and bring another one in fifteen minutes fell on deaf ears, as she dialed the restaurant manager’s number and yelled into it, “What do you think your delivery boy has given me? I order a cheese stuffed pizza and I’m getting a regular one. Why should I accept the order? I want a solution to this.” The restaurant manager tried pacifying her, allowing her concessions on this order and on her future orders, apologizing profusely at the same time. He then asked the call to be given to the delivery boy. Though she could hear only the ‘Yes sirs’ from the boy’s end, she was sure that the manager must be shouting at him and somewhere within her, the wild cruel side of hers, found pleasure in seeing her power, manifested in the form of the Manager’s voice, invoking fear in the mind of the young lad.
Her memory brought forward another such scene. She and her friends had gone to a fine dining restaurant on the New Year eve. It was very crowded. The order they placed had taken them almost an hour to come. She and her friends had become very hungry by then and
was about to plunge into the food when they realized that they had not been provided with spoons and fork. The waiter was running from one table to another and by the time he brought them spoons, another five minutes had past. But he had forgotten to get them forks. Though forks were not essential for the dishes that they had ordered, she had lost her cool and shouted at the waiter, “Call your manager. Is this how you do your job? First you bring the order late and then you forget the spoons. Maybe next you’ll forget that you are supposed to be tending to this table.” The waiter too got offended and started shouting back, his anger betraying his frustration at the hectic and thankless job. The manager had to intervene to pacify both the sides, telling Nina that the chap was new and that he would take care of him. The manager had himself gone and got forks and napkins for their table.
Then there was the incident with the customer care person of the e-commerce site, mycart.com. She had placed an order for a T-shirt. But once the T-shirt came, she found that though it looked similar with the image given on the website, it was not exactly the same and looked faded. She had called up the customer care asking for a replacement. But the person on the other side had politely told her that the product shipped to her was the same one that she had placed an order for and had further reassured her that it was a new one and of good quality. She also reminded her that the clause, ‘products might not be exactly the same as in the picture’ was put up on the website and that she had accepted it too. But Nina was not one to accept defeat and had taken the case to higher levels – manager, senior manager and VP, till she had got a replacement and also ensured that the customer care female got an earful.
There were plenty of other instances too than ran past the frame of her tired mind – at the airport check-in counters, at movie theaters, at malls. Everywhere she seemed to have created a ruckus for even the minutest problem and still had got her way through.
Having a fancy Master’s degree in management, she had been taught and made to believe that the customer is king and that the customer is always right. And she, regardless of the situation and forgetting that the service providers were human too had wanted a royal and flawless treatment and had cribbed every time for even the minutest, barely noticeable mistakes.
Today as she kept the receiver down and grumbled in her mind about the lack of understanding of her client and cried at the hours of effort she had put to make that report that was turned down by the customer in no less than five minutes, she realized how difficult being on the other side was. As she left the glassy doors of the office building, she promised herself that she would be a better customer, the same way as she would strive to make a better report the next time.